Insights + Resources

Will You Avoid These Estate Planning Mistakes?

Jul 17, 2019

Confused Child
Too many wealthy households commit these common blunders.

Many people plan their estates diligently, with input from legal, tax, and financial professionals. Others plan earnestly but make mistakes that can potentially affect both the transfer and destiny of family wealth. Here are some common and not-so-common errors to avoid.

Doing it all Yourself

While you could write your own will or create a will, it can be risky to do so. Sometimes simplicity has a price. Look at the example of Aretha Franklin. The “Queen of Soul’s” estate, valued at $80 million, may be divided under a handwritten or “holographic” will. Her wills were discovered among her personal effects. Assuming that the will is authentic, it will be probated under Michigan law, but such unwitnessed documents are not necessarily legally binding.

Failing to Update Your Will or Trust After a Life Event

Relatively few estate plans are reviewed over time. Any major life event should prompt you to review your will, trust, or other estate planning documents. So should a major life event that affects one of your beneficiaries.

Appointing a Co-Trustee

Trust administration is not for everyone. Some people lack the interest, the time, or the understanding it requires, and others balk at the responsibility and potential liability. A co-trustee also introduces the potential for conflict. 

Being too Vague with Your Heirs about Your Estate Plan

While you may not want to explicitly reveal who will get what prior to your passing, your heirs should understand the purpose and intentions at the heart of your estate planning. If you want to distribute more of your wealth to one child than another, write a letter to be presented after your death that explains your reasoning. Make a list of which heirs will receive collectibles or heirlooms. If your family has some issues, this may go a long way toward reducing squabbles as well as the possibility of legal costs eating up some of this-or-that heir’s inheritance.

Leaving a Trust Unfunded (or Underfunded)

Through a simple, one-sentence title change, a married couple can fund a revocable trust with their primary residence. As an example, if a couple retitles their home from “Heather and Michael Smith, Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship” to “Heather and Michael Smith, Trustees of the Smith Revocable Trust dated (month)(day), (year).” They are free to retitle myriad other assets in the trust’s name.

Ignoring a Caregiver with Ulterior Motives

Very few people consider this possibility when creating a will or trust, but it does happen. A caregiver harboring a hidden agenda may exploit a loved one to the point where they revise estate planning documents for the caregiver’s financial benefit.

The best estate plans are clear in their language, clear in their intentions, and updated as life events demand. They are overseen through the years with care and scrutiny, reflecting the magnitude of the transfer of significant wealth.

Tags: ,

More Insights

Apr 19, 2021

Recently, you may have seen reports that a record-low number of homes are available for sale—roughly 1.03 million nationwide. If you compare that to the average number of homes for sale during the past 10 years, it’s no surprise that many hopeful homebuyers are having issues securing a home. But why exactly is the housing … Continue reading “Forces Driving the Housing Market”

Apr 19, 2021

It can be exhausting trying to keep up with the whims of Wall Street. Lately, the financial markets have been fixated on federal taxes and what may be proposed on Capitol Hill in the weeks and months ahead. Wall Street’s focus on taxes closely follows its attention on the 10-year Treasury yield. And it wasn’t … Continue reading “The Whims of Wall Street”

Apr 16, 2021

President Joe Biden introduced the much-anticipated American Jobs Plan, which outlines an approach to spend roughly $2.2 trillion on the nation’s infrastructure and other projects. As part of the legislative process, the Biden administration also laid out a proposal for paying for the domestic investment. The plan includes raising the corporate tax rate to 28% … Continue reading “Paying for the Infrastructure Bill”

Apr 14, 2021

Financially, many of us associate the spring with taxes – but we should also associate December with important IRA deadlines. This year, like 2020, will see a few changes and distinctions. December 31, 2021, is the deadline to take your Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) from certain individual retirement accounts.

Apr 12, 2021

There’s an old Wall Street maxim that says, “markets climb a wall of worry.” And these days, there’s plenty to worry about with the trend in long-term interest rates and bonds.

Insights + Resources >